Friday, October 21, 2005

Can Jagr Keep Up His Fast Start?

Thursday night, the New York Islanders won the Battle of New York by defeating the Rangers 5-4. Jaromir Jagr scored a hat trick in the game making him the clear leader in points so far this season. Jagr has has ten goals and 14 points, which gives him a three point lead over anyone else in the NHL. Is this scoring rate sustainable?

The first thing to point out about Jagr's scoring is he has played in nine games, whereas Simon Gagne who I still argue has been the best position player so far this year (though by a smaller margin then when I wrote that post) has only played five games. Jagr may be the top scorer in the NHL but several players have scored more points per game due to uneven games played in the early schedule.

There is another reason why I doubt Jagr can keep up his scoring lead. He leads the NHL with eight power play goals (an one power play assist). In fact he has only scored two goals NOT on the power play. The group of players who are second in power play goals have only three power play goals. Jagr has been the most dominant power play man so far this year. He has benefitted from the extra power play time that has been granted to him by the obstruction crackdown. Since there have been more penalties called, there has been more power play time fore a Jagr-type player to thrive. I do not think this situation will last. There are already signs that the obstruction crackdown is slowing down. Referees are not calling things as tightly as they first were at the beginning of the year. Even if that conjecture is wrong, players are starting to adapt to the new refereeing standards (in as much as they can to an inconsistgent standard) and they will commit less penalties. At any rate, there will be less and less penalties as the season progresses and that will reduce Jagr's power play scoring.

Jagr is still a very good player and should be one of the top scorers this season, but I doubt he will be able to lead the league. Jagr last led the NHL in scoring in 2001. He is now 33 years old (and turns 34 during this season). Probably his best days are gone. I expect Jagr has a few more good years left, but they will not be as successful as he once was.

I expect that when the season is complete, Jagr will be outscored by several of Jarome Iginla, Markus Naslund, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, Peter Forsberg and Martin St Louis (plus maybe a player or two I do not expect). He may be the best power play player in the NHL today, but he will get progressively less power play chances as the season progresses.

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